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Wal-Mart removes 'Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter' shirts after police complaint

Wal-Mart removes 'Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter' shirts after police complaint
Protesters carry a "Black Lives Matter" banner as they march through downtown Seattle in November. (Matt Mills McKnight / European Pressphoto Agency)

Wal-Mart has agreed to remove T-shirts and sweatshirts that say "Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter" from its website after a complaint from the president of the country's largest police organization, but the retailer said it would not remove those that say only "Black Lives Matter."

"Black Lives Matter" is a slogan and protest movement that emerged after a neighborhood watch volunteer killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 and intensified amid later police-involved deaths. Some law enforcement groups have accused it of being anti-police.

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The website Breitbart.com posted an article last week that said Wal-Mart was "selling Black Lives Matter clothing and other items," though the merchandise is actually being sold through Wal-Mart's website by Old Glory Merchandise, a music and entertainment apparel dealer out of Connecticut.

Chuck Canterbury, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police, wrote to Wal-Mart Chief Executive C. Douglas McMillon on Tuesday to tell him the Wal-Mart website was selling "offensive shirts and sweatshirts."

"I urge you to prohibit the use of the Walmart name and website for the retail sale of these products," Canterbury wrote.

The Wal-Mart site and Old Glory's site also sell shirts that say "Blue Lives Matter," a slogan that emerged to highlight the importance of law enforcement officers.

Black Lives Matter activists have said the "blue lives" versus "black lives" debate obscures the point of their movement — which has expanded to focus on historical and modern-day discrimination and racial inequality that has plagued black Americans — and ignores police who have supported the movement.

Canterbury said that he understood that a third party was selling the merchandise, but that he was "concerned that allowing these articles to be sold in this way will damage your company's good name amongst FOP members and other active and retired law enforcement officers." Canterbury added: "Commercializing our differences will not help our local police and communities to build greater trust and respect for one another."

Wal-Mart issued a statement Tuesday night saying: "Like other online retailers, we have a marketplace with millions of items offered by third parties that includes Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter merchandise. After hearing concerns from customers, we are removing the specific item with the 'bulletproof' reference." The "bulletproof" shirts say "Bulletproof," with "Black Lives Matter" beneath that line.

Old Glory did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jackman writes for the Washington Post. Los Angeles Times staff writer Jaweed Kaleem contributed to this report. 

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